Navajo President Buu Nygren continues the tradition of Johns Hopkins research with signing of MOU to continue legacy of healthcare across Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – On May 10, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren warmly welcomed Dr. Allison Barlow, Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Indigenous Health, along with 15 colleagues, including Dr. Mathuram Santosham (founding Director of the Center), Dr. Jennifer Richards (Diné, Ogala Lakota, Taos Pueblo), Dr. Laura Hammitt, Director of  Infectious Disease Prevention Programs, and Dr. Raymond Reid (Diné, retired). These esteemed individuals gathered to sign a five-year extension of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Johns Hopkins Center for Indigenous Health (JHCIH) and the Navajo Epidemiology Center. This MOU builds upon nearly four decades of collaboration in public health research and family health promotion.

President Nygren expressed gratitude, acknowledging the challenges faced by their community: “I know a lot of our people struggle with diabetes, addictions, mental health, and behavioral health issues. Through research and our partnership with the number one public health institution, we’re truly honored to have you here on Navajo land.”

Dr. Barlow, visibly moved, shared her feelings: “I feel so humbled to work among these incredible people. They’re just amazing. I’ve learned so much from the Diné people about selflessness, hard work and service to people.”

The renewed MOU enables JHCIH to persist in its culturally-grounded, strengths-based approach to programming and research to improve the health of Navajo people of all ages. Dr. Barlow emphasized that Johns Hopkins is here in service to the Navajo Nation and expressed our excitement to expand our collaboration with the Navajo Department of Health under the leadership of Director Kim Russell. 

Dr. Barlow highlighted the Center’s focus areas, infectious disease prevention, women’s and children’s health, training, nutrition, water security, suicide prevention, behavioral health, and addiction prevention. The Center has offices in Navajo Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands, and the Great Lakes Region in Minnesota, and a Great Plains hub in South Dakota will open soon. Across the country, the Center partners with Indigenous communities in more than 165 locations and employs over 300 staff members, 82% of whom are Indigenous.


Johns Hopkins University began its research on the Navajo Nation in the 1980s, with groundbreaking work by Dr. Raymond Reid (right) and Dr. Mathuram Santosham. Dr. Reid, one of the first Navajo physicians and Dr. Santosham attended the signing.